Reform Party leader tasked to form Estonia’s new government

HELSINKI (AP) — Estonia’s president on Thursday tasked the leader of the main opposition party to form a new government in the Baltic country, a day after Prime Minister Juri Ratas and his Cabinet stepped down in the wake of a corruption scandal in Ratas’ ruling Center Party.

Kaja Kallas, the chairwoman of the center-right Reform Party that emerged as the winner of the 2019 general election, will have 14 days to put together a new Cabinet, President Kersti Kaljulaid said.

The Estonian head of state urged Kallas to move rapidly as the new government needs to immediately start tackling the country’s worsening COVID-19 situation and the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic.

“Both the Estonian people and I are expecting that Estonia would quickly have an active and competent government, which focuses on handling the pandemic and the economic crisis and on making our lives better,” Kaljulaid said in a statement after meeting with Kallas.

Ratas and his Cabinet resigned Wednesday over a corruption scandal involving a key official at his Center Party suspected of accepting a private donation for the party in exchange for a political favor on a real estate development at the harbor district of the capital, Tallinn.

After the announcement by Ratas, who had led a three-party coalition with his Center Party, the nationalist EKRE party and the conservative Fatherland party since April 2019, parties immediately started informal talks on cobbling together a new government.

On Thursday, the Reform Party said it would start official government formation talks with the Center Party. Together, the two parties would muster a majority at the 101-seat Riigikogu legislature, or Parliament.

According to Estonian public broadcaster ERR, a new Cabinet could be sworn in on Jan. 25 with Kaja Kallas as prime minister.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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